Iain Boyd was interviewed for a new article in Popular Mechanics on efforts to track hypersonic weapons.
At issue? Hypersonic weapons often travel at fast enough speeds to generate a sheath of plasma, which can obscure them to radar. Traditional missiles travel at comparably slower speeds and are much easier to monitor and potentially intercept midflight.
“It is only the very fastest hypersonic vehicles that create enough plasma for radar to be a consideration,” Boyd explains. Scramjet cruise missiles are “very fast and create a lot of energy, but they are not fast enough to create all those charged particles.”
Boyd, a professor in the Ann and H.J. Smead Department of Aerospace Engineering Sciences, is also the director of the CU Boulder Center for National Security Initiatives. He is a leading researcher in hypersonic aerothermodynamics.